May 25th, 2011
12:05 PM ET

From tornado to hospital, prayer sustains Missouri family

By Eric Marrapodi and Brian Todd, CNN

Joplin, Missouri (CNN) - It’s quiet here. The only sound in the hospital room is the steady hum of a ventilator pushing air into Lage Grigsby’s lungs. It’s a stark contrast to the haunting noise of Sunday's Joplin tornado, which put him here.

Lage’s father, James Grigsby, sits by his 14-year-old son’s bedside anxiously keeping vigil, praying and hoping his boy will pull through OK. Lage is in a medically induced coma.

He has an open skull fracture and a broken vertebra in his neck. His doctors suspect he may have a brain injury and be partially paralyzed but they don’t yet know for sure. There’s a chance he won’t be able to kick a soccer ball again - or even be able to remember a time when he did.

Lage his family live one town over from Joplin, in Neosho, Missouri. On Sunday, Lage was with his grandparents and cousin, Mason, at the Home Depot in Joplin. His grandfather parked his red dual-wheeled pickup truck at the front entrance and quickly ran in to deal with a refund on some wires he picked up earlier.

“My daughter told me they spotted one on the ground,” said Sharon Lillard, Lage’s grandmother, recalling how word of the tornado quickly spread via cell phone. She was still in the truck with Lage and Mason.

“We was getting ready to get out and go into the store but the wind was blowing so hard we couldn’t even get out of the vehicle,” she said.

They watched as orange shopping carts took flight.

“I turned around and pushed my grandkids down to the floorboard,” she said. “I kept telling them, ‘We need to pray. God’s going to take care of us.’ ”

The windows in the truck shattered, sending glass flying into Lillard’s back. She bit her tongue; she didn’t want to scare her grandchildren.

“Then all of a sudden we felt the truck go in the air.”

“All I kept saying was ‘God protect us,’” Lillard said. “Because that’s all we had was God to protect us. We didn’t know what was going to happen.”

The one-ton truck was picked up like a ball and thrown into the Home Dept’s outdoor garden section, a football field and a half away from where they had parked. It landed by the lawnmowers.

“All I could do is pray someone would find us quick because I couldn’t do any screaming or anything because my head was pushed into the seat.”

Besides the glass in her back, Lillard had a broken arm. Mason was injured, too. A piece of rebar had gone through her shoulder and out her back.

Lage had been thrown from the truck and landed outside, nearby.

The Home Depot was completely destroyed, an unrecognizable mass of tangled rebar and concrete. A number of bodies have since been pulled from the store's wreckage.

Rescuers quickly found Lage, his grandmother and his cousin. They cut Mason out of the truck and rushed Lage to nearby Freeman Health System, the Joplin hospital spared by the half-mile wide tornado (the city’s other hospital, St. John's Regional Medical Center, was badly damaged.)

“When he presented he had a dilated pupil, which is a serious neuralgic problem, indicating that the person is about to neurologically die," said Lage’s nuerosurgeon, Dr. Arthur Daus.

The news provoked Lage’s dad to pray hard: “Don’t take my son, Lord,” James Grigsby prayed, “please don’t take my son.”

Dr. Daus preformed six hours of surgery to save Lage’s life, removing parts of dead brain tissue and the skull to allow the brain to swell.

There’s a chance Lage will regain his cognitive function, Daus said, but it will require a near miracle.

Hospital staff quietly come in and out of Lage’s room at the intensive care unit, where the boy lies still except for the occasional twitch of his leg or squeeze of his dad’s hand. A bandage covers his head.

They had to shave his long brown hair, styled like Justin Bieber - though his dad said Lage would hate it if you described it that way.

"It really disheartens me, because I'm used to seeing him happy and so vibrant,” Grigsby said. “He's a very energetic boy,” Grigsby said, holding his son’s hand.

"This isn't the boy who walks up behind me and goes 'Dad, can I get on the computer? Dad, can I play the X-box? Dad, can I go and ride my bike?"

Through the pain and anxiety, Grigsby said his faith remains firm. The family regularly attends the Church of Christ in Neosho.

“We’re a very Christian-bound family,” Grigsby said. Lage, who has four siblings, is active in the Royal Rangers, a Christian version of the Boy Scouts.

“The hard part about this is I know God’s hand has been in this and works through this,” Grigsby said. “He is here and is at least with us at this point.”

Grigsby says he praying for his neighbors, too.

"I know there's probably people out there who are going to be disheartened by this—I got to keep my son and they may not have,” he said. “I’m one of the lucky ones.”

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Missouri

soundoff (631 Responses)
  1. Jungle Shooter - Bubble Shooter

    I feel that you must write extra on this subject. It won't be a taboo subject however typically persons are not enough to talk on such topics.

    January 25, 2012 at 11:25 pm |
  2. Randi Gill

    James Grigsby is my ex. He is a horrible, terrible, and vile person. This man is NOT religious, and I'm sure if he ever walked into a church, he would immediately be set aflame. He will do and say whatever he can to make people feel sorry for him. I am a FIRM believer in Karma, and after the lying, cheating, and stealing that James did to me and to plenty of others, maybe this is just a bit of karma. When him and I were together, he was teaching his sons (all 4 of them) to be bad people, just like him. He was teaching them to cheat and steal to get what they wanted. I feel bad for Lage, he is a sweet kid, but with parents like James and Jessica, this is just the beginning of a hard life. Maybe he'll learn that treating people like trash isn't the way to go.

    September 2, 2011 at 8:57 pm |
  3. r.ortiz


    September 1, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
  4. Alexander Cotes

    Times like this we should all pray. Specialy when there is a childs life. God is big and will not abandon us. God will give and take away, but no matter what never give up in believing. I will pray for this child. I will pray for lage to recover soon and for his family who are going through difficult times.

    September 1, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
  5. Wade

    Grown adults should not believe in fairytales.

    September 1, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
  6. Johan Fruh

    I'm happy to see that science's progress has managed to give this child a chance.

    It's a good thing religion stepped back a bit a few hundred years ago, in order to let science progress and bring among us these sort of possibilities.

    I hope that the child survives. And I also hope that if he does, it won't make his family think that prayers were the reason, and that in the future, a prayer is all they will need.

    August 29, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
    • Christophorm

      oh yeah but even the medical profession admits to killing around 300,000 yearly...wether through medicines or mistakes..they can do only so much and are helpful, but they must admit they can only go so far as to help.They do not have the final say in life and death.

      August 31, 2011 at 11:25 am |
  7. Bob Roberts

    Lage was presumed dead at the site. A second check found him breathing shallowly. First responders told the family he was alive yet maybe only for minutes. He 'died' on the way to the hospital but keep coming back. After surgery and rehad the kid is alive and doing better daily. Praise the lords

    August 29, 2011 at 7:45 am |
  8. Cat MacLeod

    It's sad to hear of someone's loved ones being injured but I'm forced to wonder. If your telepathic link to your invisible all powerful friend who lives in the sky didn't seem to stop the tornado. Why's he going to help your kid now?

    August 28, 2011 at 12:08 am |
    • mary43

      You are a sick, hateful and intolerant person! This family is enduring "real" pain and you ridicule this father/family for having childlike faith.

      August 28, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
    • wendy

      What a hatefull, ignorant, mean spirited thing to say. Let others have their beliefs if it helps them. I'm not religious in the slightest, and I aml absolutely disgusted by your comment

      August 29, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
    • Christophorm

      read psalms 91 about the righteous man and his family protected from these storms...not everone has a telepathic link as you say only those who have overcome their sinlife(not many) by believe the Lamb of God took it at His cross...the rest have no hope in this life and that includes wicked so called christians and money/fraud preachers.

      August 31, 2011 at 11:30 am |
  9. ChaosTheory

    So did the kid die or what? Or was the surgery a scuccess?

    August 25, 2011 at 10:11 am |
    • mary43

      He's in an induced coma. If you're a believer the family is asking for prayer.

      August 28, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
  10. McJesus

    Thank you God for smashing my child with a Tornado with an 'act of God'. Now, I pray that you heal the innocent child after smashing his poor little body with your invisible magical hands.

    August 24, 2011 at 12:39 pm |
    • mary43

      You are a sick, hateful and intolerant person! And to point your finger at God like that, wow. I see, if we only lived in a perfect world then you'd believe in God. We live in a fallen world where bad things happen to good people, but one day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord. Laugh now, but you can't say you were never told.

      August 28, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
    • rawr

      He may be rude but you're illogical.

      August 29, 2011 at 7:00 pm |
  11. Calamus Appello

    The actual sustaining of "prayer" comes from the mental release associated with the simple act of letting go of the sense of control that we don't actually have in the first place. A simple read of basic western psychology and the non-mystical aspects of non-Christian religions of the east reveal that the illusion of control is a stifling activity. Were they to simply let-go while praying to a pet rock, the mental relief would be the same. By far the heroes here are the doctors and their dedication to reality not fantasy garden gnomes and walking zombies.

    August 23, 2011 at 11:18 pm |
  12. bob

    i prayed for praying to be a fairytale, hay it worked!

    August 22, 2011 at 8:37 pm |
  13. Annatala Wolf

    Of course I wish the boy a speedy recovery, though from the article it is not clear that he's even still alive (in the cognitive sense).

    Either way, I'd think that the doctors deserve some of the credit here, when the only praise is heaped on God–who apparently saw fit to allow this to happen to your child. And even if this ends up better than death, it's difficult to say that God is the one who saved your child when so many others died. Why would God pick and choose like that? It's not just "disheartening", it's arbitrary.

    I realize some will suggest "mysterious ways", but suggesting that there is some great plan that requires the deaths of children seems malevolent to me. Why can't it just be the weather that is responsible?

    August 22, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
    • mary43

      God creates man/woman to be doctors. He uses them everyday. You don't believe so I wouldn't expect you to understand that. One day every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord of all.

      August 28, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
  14. EvelynWaugh

    "Religion isn't the Opiate of the masses .. It's the Placebo".

    August 21, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
  15. Cheryl

    Praying for Lage to recover and heal quickly

    August 21, 2011 at 2:32 am |
  16. bu

    No, prayer does NOTHING! Placebo effect, hello???

    August 21, 2011 at 2:22 am |
    • Cheryl

      There can be a mind 'connection' for the placebo effect, yes. But that has nothing to do with this. When you have a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, which results in being led by Him and the Holy Spirit, He hears all prayers and answers. That knowledge only comes after being saved and having the relationship though. They said Lage needs a miracle, and the Lord is in the miracle business. He often steps in when nothing more can be done by us/man – so we can't attribute it to 'chance', only Him. I've seen Him work too many times, in too personal of ways to attribute His answered prayer or work in my or other Christians lives as anything other than what it is – the Lord.

      August 21, 2011 at 2:46 am |
    • Calamus Appello

      @ Cheryl "When you have a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, which results in being led by Him and the Holy Spirit, He hears all prayers and answers. " The laws of physics are NEVER suspended which is required for a "miracle". If they EVER were to be suspended, we would see evidence of that suspension in at least a couple of the billions of experiments that have been conducted in the last 400 years of formal science investigation. Please provide the rest of us of a SINGLE peer reviewed study or article that supports your hypothesis regarding the suspension of the laws of physics. I guess you could start with a peer reviewed study that supports credible evidence of how a person has more-than a one way fantasy relationship with either a make-believe friend, a historical figure that is dead, or an historical figure that is arose and magically disappeared into the clouds violating not only entropy upon arising, but also violating gravitational laws that effect not only light photons but space&time entanglement. We await your response.

      August 23, 2011 at 11:29 pm |
    • Calamus Appello

      @ Cheryl. I forgot to ask, are you aware of the "gap-fill-in-the-blanks" capability of the brain supported not only in the neuro- psychological sciences but in the acts of every illusionist magician since the dawn of time? Probably not....you weren't looking for THAT. 😉

      August 23, 2011 at 11:37 pm |
  17. John


    August 19, 2011 at 7:26 pm |
    • Calamus Appello

      OMG, I think I see the Flying Spaghetti Monster in that entangled blob of red!! All hail pirates, all hail FSM!!

      August 23, 2011 at 11:31 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.